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7 undercover ways to find fresh content marketing ideas

Man highlighting a sentence on a piece of paper with a mobile phone on the paper.

Often, just the thought of having to come up with content ideas is the thing that leads us to do just the opposite – stare at a blinking cursor on a blank screen.

If you suffer from the blinking cursor of doom too, schedule a couple of hours to brainstorm a bunch of fresh content ideas.

Batching this task is the most efficient way to work. You’ll hopefully come up with a list of topic ideas that will keep your blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, videos or even infographics going for months.

Remember, you don’t have to come up with groundbreaking or wholly new ideas to put your spin on things. Don’t let the fear of giving your take on previously covered topics stop you from creating content. Someone somewhere needs to hear it from you. You can add value with your fresh spin and unique experience.

So break the blinking cursor stare and use these 6 methods to help you generate content ideas that will resonate with your target audience.

1. Mine Amazon’s product and book reviews

Amazon is more than an e-commerce giant. It’s also a giant search engine filled with user-generated content that can tell you a lot about what people like, don’t like and value most.

Mining Amazon for a product-based business

Look at products like yours on Amazon. Read the reviews. Ignore the glowing 5-star ratings and the scathing 1-star reviews. You want the stuff in between.

Note what people criticise in the 2 to 4-star reviews. Consider:

  • How is your product better?
  • How does your product solve their problem in a different way?
  • What pain points does your product solve that others don’t?

Use those product reviews to spark content ideas. Is there a topic in there that you could easily expand on?

Mining Amazon for a service-based business

If you’re a service-based business, look at business books in your industry on Amazon. Read the reviews.

Pay attention to the 2 to 3-star reviews. Consider:

  • How did the book fail to deliver to expectations?
  • What are the main complaints about the book?
  • What content is missing from the book?

Is there a topic you could write about to address the reader expectations that weren’t met?  Consider what people don’t say in their reviews, too. Coupled with the table of contents, is there something missing that you could write to fill that gap?

Then look at books in your field with the best reviews. You can use the ‘look inside’ feature to check out the table of contents and turn chapter titles into possible headlines.

2. Use Quora to discover what questions people are asking in your industry

Quora is a website where people can ask a question and anyone can answer. There are 1000s of categories with millions of questions. Your area of interest and expertise is sure to be covered.

Visit the Quora website. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t have one already. Choose your area of industry or use their search function to find questions about your industry or topic.

When you use the search function, it displays a list of related questions. These might spark fresh content ideas as well.

See which questions have a lot of responses. The more interaction a question has, the more interesting people find that topic. Look for a question with answers that polarise people. This might be a contentious topic that you could write about with some authority.

And while you’re there, you might as well answer a few questions and, if appropriate, add a link to a blog post or page on your website. This will help you build authority in your space and perhaps even generate some backlinks to your website.

3. Use ‘Answer the Public’ to find even more topics in your industry

Answer the Public is a tool that uses Google’s ‘suggested searches’ to present questions people ask about a topic when you search for a keyword or phrase.

It presents the suggested phrases visually, but you can also download a spreadsheet of them in CSV format.

Visit the Answer the Public website and then search for your topic.

The first section of results shows the questions people ask using who, what, when, where, why, how and a few other question-oriented words. This is great for sparking fresh content ideas for your business.

Review questions people are asking about your topic and there might be a few you could choose to answer easily in a single piece of content.

4. Search online forums

There are online forums covering every possible topic.

Do a search of your business topic plus the word ‘forum’ and start mining for topics you can write about.

See what questions people ask, what problems they encounter and what they want to know more about.

Can you answer these?

While you’re there, you could contribute your expertise. But it’s OK to just lurk and come up with some fresh topic ideas to write about.

For Australia-centric content, check the Whirlpool forums for product and service reviews. Whirlpool was originally set up as a discussion place about broadband internet in Australia, but it has grown to cover just about every single topic.

5. Review online courses

Visit online course marketplaces like Skillshare, Coursera and Udemy and check out the courses related to your industry.

You can see what students say about these courses – what they do and don’t do well. Like Amazon reviews, ignore the 5 and 1-star reviews.

Check the learning components of the relevant courses. What would you say or do better or differently?

Where are the gaps that you could fill with fresh content in your chosen medium?

6. Check Pinterest for its top-performing pins around your topic

Pinterest is a visual discovery engine, not a social media networking platform.

It’s a fantastic (and often visually engaging) way to search for keywords around your business or industry.

Use Pinterest to review the top performing pins for each of your searches. Visit the sites the pin links to.

Can you produce something even better? Do you have a fresh angle to cover this topic?

7. Join Facebook groups

Join Facebook groups related to your topic. Depending on your topic, you can search locally or internationally.

Check the most active or common posts. What questions are people asking and what problems do they seem to have? Are there questions that pop up regularly? Is there something that you could answer in a piece of content?

While you’re in the group, you can answer questions and provide information via links to your content if this is allowed by the moderator. Or you can just use the group to come up with topic ideas to write about.

Add your fresh spin

Use one or all these methods to learn more about what your target audience wants to know.

Armed with that knowledge, you can create content that corrects misconceptions, delivers handy tips and advice, and drills deeper into topic people want to know about. Then use your perspective to give it your unique spin.

Come up with as many ideas as you can in one sitting. That way, you’ll have an abundant list of topics to draw from to create content for your preferred medium. Your future self will thank you as you avoid that dreaded blinking cursor of doom.

Start researching and get creative!

Sandra Muller

Content Strategiest | Sandra L Muller

Sandra Muller is a content strategist and SEO copywriter who has worked in online business for 20 years. She helps organisations plan and deliver complex online content projects.

You can find her at sandralmuller.com or blogging at thesmarterwriter.com